At the time of writing, one Argentine peso was equal to exactly one US dollar. Recent political upheaval, however, has led to a major devaluation of the peso and rapidly fluctuating exchange rates. Please keep this in mind when referring to any mention of costs throughout this guide.
BUENOS AIRES is a city which lends itself perfectly to aimless wandering. Though vast, it's mostly a very walkable place, and orientating yourself is made pretty straightforward thanks to the city's regular and logical grid pattern. The city is approximately triangular in shape and its boundaries are marked by Avenida General Paz to the west, the River Plate to the northeast and by its tributary, the Riachuelo , to the south. Holding the whole thing together is Avenida Rivadavia , an immensely long street (Porteños claim it is the longest in the world) which runs east to west for nearly two hundred blocks from Plaza de Mayo to Morón, outside the city limits. Parallel to Avenida Rivadavia run four major avenues, Avenida de Mayo, Corrientes, Córdoba and Santa Fe. The major north-south routes through the city centre are, to the east, Avenida L.N. Além - which changes its name to Avenida del Libertador as it swings out to the northern suburbs - and, to the west, Avenida Callao. Through the very heart of the centre runs the spectacularly wide Avenida 9 de Julio - an aggressively car-orientated conglomeration of four multi-lane roads.
The city centre is bounded approximately by Avenida de Mayo to the south, Avenida L.N. Além to the east, Avenida Córdoba to the north and Avenida Callao to the west. At its southeastern corner lies the city's foundational square, the Plaza de Mayo , centrepiece of the Haussmann-style remodelling that took place here in the late nineteenth century, and home to the governmental palace, the Casa Rosada . Within the centre lie the financial district, La City , and major shopping, eating and accommodation districts. It's a hectic place, particularly during the week, but from the bustle of Florida , the area's busy pedestrianized thoroughfare, to the fin-de-siècle elegance of Avenida de Mayo and the café culture of Corrientes , the area is surprisingly varied in both architecture and atmosphere. With the exception of the Plaza de Mayo and the Teatro Colón - Buenos Aires' world-renowned opera house - it's perhaps not so much the centre's sights that are the main draw but rather the strongly defined character of its streets, which provide a perfect introduction to the rhythm of Porteño life.
The south of the city - for many tourists and locals alike, its most intriguing area - begins just beyond Plaza de Mayo. It contains the oldest part of the city and its narrow, often cobbled streets are lined with some of the capital's finest architecture, typified by compact late nineteenth-century town houses with ornate Italianate facades, sturdy but elegant wooden doors and finely wrought iron railings. From the cultivated charm of San Telmo , setting for the city's popular Sunday antique market, to the passionate atmosphere of La Boca on match days, when the neighbourhood seems to drown in a sea of blue and yellow, the south offers an appealing mix of tradition and popular culture. It's also home to one of the city's most unusual green spaces, the unexpectedly wild Reserva Ecológica , which lies out to the east, beyond the chaotic rumble of lorries which trundle along the city's dock area.
The north of the city is generally regarded as beginning at Avenida Córdoba. Four of the area's neighbourhoods, Retiro and Recoleta - jointly known as Barrio Norte, plus Palermo and Belgrano , are renowned for their palaces, plazas and parks. They're the city's mostly wealthy garden barrios, swallowed up one after another as Buenos Aires expanded northwards, following the fatal epidemics that struck the south in the 1860s and 1870s, and as the city's population swelled. Set off against luxuriant native trees such as jacarandas and tipas, the architectural styles of the many aristocratic palaces are part Spanish and part British, but overwhelmingly French. Some are now open to the public, and this is where you'll find some of the city's finest museums - such as Retiro's Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano, Palermo's Museo de Arte Decorativo, and Belgrano's Museo de Arte Español. Despite opposition from the city elite, Evita is buried at La Recoleta , one of the world's most astonishing cemeteries, in terms of atmosphere and the sheer beauty of its tombs. Further north, incredibly wide avenues sweep past landscaped gardens, including a Japanese Garden, enormous parks, such as Parque 3 de Febrero, and some of the country's major sports venues, including the National Polo Field. Pockets of mid-nineteenth-century Buenos Aires are still left, the most atmospheric of all being Palermo Viejo , whose cobbled streets and single-storey houses contrast with the grandiose houses and high-rise apartment blocks that populate most of this side of the city.
Beyond Avenida Callao lies the west , an immense, mostly residential district which has its own commercial centre around the barrios of Caballito and Flores. There are only a small number of sights to see in this area, but two of the best of them are amongst Buenos Aires' most idiosyncratic offerings. No one with the remotest interest in tango should neglect to pay a visit to the shrine-like tomb of Carlos Gardel, the nation's most famous singer, in the huge cemetery of Chacarita , whilst the Sunday gaucho fair in the barrio of Mataderos offers the unforgettable sight of dashingly dressed horsemen galloping through the city streets, as well as providing an authentic brew of regional cooking and live folk music.